Indie distributor Arrow Films is back at it again with Nikkatsu Diamond Guys, Vol. 2, a return to the rich well of cinema from Japan's oldest film studio, Nikkatsu, and their late 1950's "Diamond Guys." This collection celebrates these “Diamond Guys” with three classic films from directors Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril), Ko Nakahira (Crazed Fruit), and Haruyasu Noguchi, a relative unknown for the West.
In Saito’s Tokyo Mighty Guy, mega star Akira Kobayashi stars as Jiro in the rambunctious tale of a chef who opens a restaurant in the busy Ginza district. His culinary skills and dashing good looks bring in the women as well as unwanted trouble, while an explosive political scandal builds around his girlfriend’s business.
Jo Shishido (Massacre Gun, Retaliation), one of the most popular Diamond Guys in the West, stars in Danger Pays, a crime caper from Ko Nakahira about counterfeiting. When one billion yen goes AWOL, “Joe the Ace” (Shishido) spies an opportunity to get rich quick, but things soon go wrong as it turns out he isn’t the only one who’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on the missing cash.
Finally, Shishido stars once again in Noguchi’s screwball classic Murder Unincorporated. When the mysterious “Joe of Spades” executes one of the bosses of a powerful syndicate, his colleagues, fearing for their own lives, call on the services of assassin agency Murder Unincorporated to take care of the problem.
Nikkatsu Diamond Guys, Vol. 2 presents all three films on one disc, an approach that generally works even if it doesn't rise to the heights of some of Arrow's finer collections. The films themselves are fine, lesser known examples of films from Nikkatsu's Diamond Guys era even if Murder Unincorporated does stretch the genre a bit with its more comedic elements that may not resonate with Nikkatsu purists.
The extras for this collection are fairly modest, though I suppose that's inevitable since everything's being squeezed onto one disc. That said, when I started watching the Nikkatsu films I didn't find myself completely a fan of them. After this collection, I can say I've really come to appreciate the full spectrum of Nikkatsu films. In Murder Unincorporated, we find elements of screwball comedy and some of the most unique murder approaches you could possibly ask for in cinema. The other two films are more straightforward Nikkatsu films, yet they are presented quite effectively here with only occasional moments of soft imagery evident.
I don't know that the Nikkatsu films will ever be my favorite Arrow releases, but I will admit my eyes lit up when they arrived at my doorstep. If you were a fan of the first collection, I'd imagine you'll fancy yourself a fan of this one, as well. Check it out on June 13th when this limited edition, 3000 copies, gets released.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic